After spending a comfortable Sunday afternoon perusing the various auction sites for 17th CVI-related artifacts I came across a couple of letters written by Rufus Tilbe up for auction. Tilbe was a member of Company E, having enlisted at the age 22 from Westport, CT. He was promoted to the rank of corporal just prior to Chancellorsville, and made it through both Chancellorsville and Gettysburg unscathed.
After the regiment was transferred to the Department of the South following Gettysburg, Tilbe fought in the various skirmishes in and around Charleston, SC. It was there that he received a wound to his right foot that was reported in the August 26, 1863 edition of the New York Times. Something went wrong with that wound, for sure, as he soon enough underwent an amputation of his right leg.
Tilbe would become one of 4 members of the regiment who would be awarded the Gilmore Medal. The Gilmore Medal?
Here’s a description of the medal, created and issued by Major General Quincy Gilmore, from the March 30, 1864 edition of the New York Times:
From the Palmetto Herald.
The Hilton Head and Beaufort papers of March 24, have the following items:
It will be remembered that after the reduction of Fort Wagner and the demolition of Fort Sumter, last Fall, Gen. GILLMORE announced that medals of honor would be presented to such enlisted men as had especially distinguished themselves by gallant conduct during the siege. They have been struck, and samples are already here, though the entire number will scarcely be ready for delivery sooner than two or three weeks. There are about five hundred candidates (500) for the honor, each of whom will have his name neatly engraved on the buckle to which the medal is attached. The medal itself is of bronze, about the size of the silver dollar of blessed memory, and bears
upon its obverse in bold relief, a very accurate representation of Fort Sumter at the termination of the first bombardment, taken from an original drawing by Mr. W.T. CRANE, with the legend “Fort Sumter, Aug. 23, 1863,” the whole encircled by a border of stars. Upon the reverse in this inscription, in raised letters: “For gallant and meritorious conduct. Presented by Q.A. GILLMORE, Major-General.” The name of Gen. GILLMORE is a fac simile of his autograph. The medals are beautiful in design, and are very neatly and carefully made. They come from the establishment of BALL, BLACK & Co., New-York City.
Besides Corporal Tilbe, the following soldiers from the 17th CVI were also awarded the Gilmore Medal:
Private Walter Jarmon – Company F
1st Sergeant Charles Smith, Jr. – Company G
Private Richard McGee, Jr. – Company K
As for Corporal Tilbe – he would transfer to the 128th Company, 2nd Battalion, Veteran Reserve Corps in December 1863, until his discharge in July 1864. He died at age 80 in May 1920.